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Tokina 16.5-135mm
AT-X DX (2009- )
© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

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Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 AF

Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 AT-X DX in Nikon mount (77mm filters, 21.9 oz./620g, about $450). enlarge. Also available in Canon EOS mount. The biggest source of support for this free website is when you use these links, especially directly to it in Nikon mount at Adorama, in Nikon mount at Amazon, in Canon EOS mount at Adorama or in Canon EOS mount at Amazon when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thank you! Ken.


January 2011     More Tokina Reviews   Other brand reviews

Nikon Reviews    Nikon Lenses    Canon Reviews    Canon Lenses

Optics: 2 stars
Mechanics: 2 stars
Ergonomics: 2 stars
Usefulness: 2 stars
Availability: 2 stars
Overall: 2 stars


Ideal Uses: Intended for use on DX digital and 1.6x Canon digital as a do-everything lens.

Not for: Won't work on film, full-frame or FX cameras. It won't autofocus on Nikon's cheapest D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100 or D5000.

Good: Very slightly wider wide-angle range than 18mm zooms.

Bad: I wouldn't buy this lens because it has no VR, no IS, and uses a primitive AF system lacking instant manual-focus override.


Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations


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Ritz Camera

I personally suggest Adorama, Amazon, Ritz, B&H, Calumet and J&R. I can't vouch for ads below.


Tokina has been making some excellent lenses for many decades, but this isn't one of them.

This Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 is optically among the poorest DX lenses I've ever used, it lacks the VR or IS needed for consistently sharp hand-held results in the telephoto range, and it demands you stop and move a switch on the camera to select between auto and manual focus. I'm surprised Tokina calls this an AT-X lens, an appelation historically reserved only for their best lenses. This 16.5-135mm just doesn't cut it.

I wouldn't buy this lens; I'd buy the Nikon 18-200mm VR in a heartbeat, and if money mattered, I'd stick with an 18-55mm kit lens until I could afford the Nikon 18-200mm VR.

On Canon, the Canon 18-135mm IS is far superior, and doesn't cost any more!


Formats and Versions       intro      top

This Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 comes in in both Nikon and Canon EOS mounts. I am addressing the Nikon mount version here; you may make the usual extrapolations for Canon.


Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 AF

Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 DX. enlarge.


Specifications        top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations


Name       specs       top

Tokina calls this the Tokina 16.5-135mm F3.5-5.6 DX.

     AT-X: Advanced Technology-seX.

     DX: Won't work on 35mm, FX, 1.6x or 1.3x cameras.


Optics       specs       top

15 elements in 9 groups.

Three of these are aspherical: one of molded glass, and two "compound:" plastic glued to glass.

Two of these are SD super-low dispersion glass, similar to Nikon's ED glass.

IF: Internal focusing.



Coverage        top

DX and 1.6x only.


Angle of View       specs       top

82º - 12.º


Diaphragm       specs       top

Diaphragm, Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 at f/5.6

Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 at minimum aperture. enlarge.

9 rounded blades.

Stops down to f/22-36.


Focal Length        top


When used on a DX camera, it gives angles of view similar to what a 25-200mm lens gives when used on an FX or 35mm camera.


Close Focus       specs       top

1.7 feet (0.5m), marked.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio       specs       top



Hard Infinity Focus Stop?       specs       top


One must let the AF system focus for infinity.


Focus Scale       specs       top

Yes, but very basic.


Depth-of-Field Scale       specs       top



Infra-Red Focus Index       specs       top



Aperture Ring       specs       top



Filter Thread       specs       top

77mm, plastic.

Moves in and out with zooming, but never rotates.


Tripod Collar       specs       top



Size       specs       top

Tokina specifies 3.1" (78mm) long by 3.46 in. (80.0mm) diameter.


Weight       specs       top

21.860 oz. (619.75g), measured, Nikon version.

Tokina specifies 21.5 oz. (610g).


Hood (included)       specs       top

Tokina BH 777 Hood

Tokina BH-777 hood, included.

The plastic bayonet hood is included.

It's fuzzy on the inside.


Case       specs       top



Quality       specs       top

Made in Japan.

Serial numbers printed on both box and warranty card.


Packaging       specs       top

Single-wall cardboard box, glossy printed.

Folded corrugated cardboard formers inside. Lens, with reversed hood attached, inside clear plastic bag inside cardboard.

Paperwork on top of cardboard, just under box cover.

Instruction leaflet included.


Warranty, USA       specs       top

Three Years.


Price, USA       specs       top

$450, January 2010, in either Nikon mount or Canon EOS mount.


Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

Overall   Auto and Manual Focus    Bokeh   Caps    Color

Distortion   Ergonomics   Falloff    Filters   Focus Breathing   

Color Fringes     Maximum Apertures    Mechanics    

Sharpness   Sunstars   Survivability   Zooming


Overall      performance      top

This Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 DX is poor. It's not that sharp, it has plenty of distortion,it has visible exposure variation with focal length changes, it has no VR or IS for sharp hand-held tele shots, and its AF system requires one to stop and fiddle with switches to go between auto and manual, and these are just the biggest problems.

This lens might have been interesting back in 1999 when Nikon invented the world's first DX DSLR, but not today.


Auto and Manual Focus      performance      top

On Nikon, this Tokina lens uses 1980s technology: a rotating screw coupling driven from the camera. Therefore, since Nikon's cheapest D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100 and D5000 have no AF motor, this lens will not autofocus on them.


AF Speed

Autofocus is fast enough.

One full turn of the AF screw pulls focus in from infinity to 10 feet (3 meters).


AF Noise

A motor in your camera has to turn to make this lens focus, which could disturb sensitive subjects. It is not silent.


Manual Focus

WARNING: The manual focus ring turns backwards on Nikon, so your focus-assist arrows will point you in the wrong direction.

Manual focus mode requires moving a switch on your camera.

Once you do that, and if you ever get over it moving in the wrong direction, it works OK.


Bokeh      performance      top

Bokeh, the character of out of focus areas, not simply how far out of focus they are, is very good. This isn't a fast lens, but what is out of focus is reasonably undistracting and smooth.


Caps      performance      top

Diaphragm, Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 at f/5.6

Capped Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6. enlarge.

The caps are decent, but I'd replace the rear cap with a real Nikon rear cap ($8) which feels a little better.


Color Rendition      performance      top

Color rendition seems the same as my Nikon 18-200mm VR.


Distortion      performance      top

The Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 DX has strong pincushion distortion throughout most of its range.

Try these figures in Photoshop's lens distortion filter to minimize it. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

DX at 3m (10')

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

* Waviness remains after correction.


Ergonomics      performance      top

Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 AF

Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 DX. enlarge.

Ergonomics are poor by 2011 standards, because the focus system still demands manual intervention just to change between auto and manual focus modes.

The zoom ring does not have uniform drag throughout its range: it gets much tighter around 50-70mm,. This makes zooming unpleasant having to push through that range to get from one setting to another.


Falloff (darkened corners)      performance      top

Falloff is only visible wide-open at the zoom extremes.

The biggest problem is exposure variation with aperture and with focal length; the frame-to-frame variations seen below are also visible in actual shooting.

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.


Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 DX falloff on DX, no correction, Nikon.

Maximum is f/5.6 ->

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.



Filters, Use with      performance      top

All 77mm filters work great. The plastic threads don't rotate, although they do pump in and out with zooming.

There's no problem with vignetting, even with a thick (7.2mm excluding rear threads) rotating polarizers.

In fact, you can use another regular filter (4.8mm thick excluding rear threads) along with a thick polarizer, and just barely get a little vignetting at the 16.5mm setting, and none anywhere else. This is with a stack measuring 12mm!


Focus Breathing      performance      top

Of interest mostly to cinematographers focusing back and forth between two subjects, for instance, a couple having a conversation, the image from the Tokina 16.5-135 3.5-5.6 gets slightly smaller as focused more closely at the wide end, and significantly smaller as focused more closely at the tele end.


Lateral Color Fringes      performance      top

The lateral color fringes are so bad that the D7000 can't completely correct them automatically

Therefore there can be visible color fringes at the 135mm end.


Maximum Apertures      performance      top



Mechanics      performance      top

Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 AF

Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6, Nikon mount. enlarge.

This Tokina is a well-made plastic lens. The rear mount is metal, but it grinds when mounted and unmounted.


Filter Threads



Hood Mount



Foremost Barrel



Rear Fore Barrel



Focus Ring

Plastic, rubber covered.


Mid and Aft Barrel Exterior



Zoom Ring

Plastic; rubber covered.



Seem like plastic and metal.



Light-gold-colored metal.

Sometimes sticky or gritty when mounting, not always smooth like Nikon's lenses.





Identity Plate

Black and gold debossed metal plate.


Serial Number

The serial number is printed on a glued-on sticker on the bottom rear of barrel


Ass-Gasket (rain seal at mount)



Noises When Shaken

Some clicking.


Made in



Internal Edge Blackening

Something I've never seen in a new lens is that some of the black paint applied to the edges of some glass elements to minimize internal reflections has some white specks or bubbles in it. This is reminiscent of what's sometimes seen on 1950s Schneider lenses.


Sharpness      performance      top

Warning 1: Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens.

Warning 2: Lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

The Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 isn't very sharp.

Either of the Nikon 18-200mm VR or Canon 18-135mm IS is far superior.

This Tokina lens is worst at the ends of the zoom range and at its larger apertures, or pretty much most of the places that people will use it.

At 135mm, it looks like you'd expect from a plastic lens.


Sunstars      performance      top

With its almost always circular 9-bladed diaphragm, this Tokina 16.5-135 is unlikely to make any meaningful sunstars.


Survivability       performance     top

The Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 seems pretty tough as plastic-barreled lenses go, so long as you don't bash the front of an extended lens and crack the zooming system.

There is no AF motor to die, so this lens ought to still be kicking in a few decades, unless it has internal plastic zoom cylinders to crack.


Zooming       performance     top

The zooming feels nasty. It gets much stiffer around 50-70mm, making it unpleasant to zoom.

If zooming doesn't feel good, even if this lens was sharp, which it's not, I'd pass on this lens. If it's not fun, why do it?

On Nikon, the 16.5mm end reads as 17mm in the EXIF data, and the lens codes as "17-135mm."


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

This is a poor lens. Look elsewhere.

16.5mm is almost identical to 18mm on the wide end. Try it and see; I can barely see any difference.

If you want Tokina, buy any of their other excellent lenses, like the 11-16mm or 100mm Macro.



This Tokina 16.5-135mm f/3.5-5.6 DX is far inferior to Nikon's 18-200mm VR.

For just $200 more, the Nikon 18-200 is more than twice the lens optically, and adds instant manual-focus override, and most importantly, adds VR for better hand-held sharpness at the long end.

Never try to save money when buying lenses. Skip this Tokina. If you can't afford the Nikon 18-200 today, stick with an 18-55mm or any other similar Nikon lens.



The far superior Canon 18-135mm IS, which also adds Image Stabilization for much sharper hand-held tele shots, costs the same as this Tokina dog.

16.5mm is the same as 18mm; there isn't enough difference to give anyone any reason to settle for this Tokina on a Canon.


More Information



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